Aces up our sleeves

KAREN WALKER: As well as being New Zealand fashion's biggest international success story, Karen has a huge influence on style and trends in her home country.
KAREN WALKER: As well as being New Zealand fashion's biggest international success story, Karen has a huge influence on style and trends in her home country.

New Zealand's fashion industry is a relatively small circle of designers, media and retailers. Yet this small group shapes the way most New Zealanders dress.

With local labels now proudly selling their wares across the country, New Zealand fashion has come into its own.

Home-grown trends are also influencing garments from the major chains - New Zealand retailers now offer local trends that are uniquely Kiwi.

We also have several trend-setters - stylish themselves, they're also helping shape the way we dress and style ourselves.

While some of the top choices come as no surprise, a few might not be well known outside of fashion circles.

Karen Walker

New Zealand fashion's biggest international success story is also seen as the most influential fashion figure at home.

Walker is an embodiment of a successful designer, with a thriving label, a cult following and with it a cult of personality. Her effortless, casual and quirky style, as worn by her and a myriad of celebrities, is now sold throughout the world.

Walker's collections are inherently Kiwi, with their relaxed styling, gentle femininity and a dash of down-to-earth sexiness. Her fun, gentle aesthetic has altered the way many woman dress.

Says Liz Stringer, owner of Harry's Boutique in Wellington: “Karen Walker's influence as a stylish and fashionable New Zealander is undeniable. Her original sense of style accompanied by her excellent business acumen has created a global brand, which absolutely deserves respect.”

Karen Inderbitzen Waller

While Karen Inderbitzen Waller might not be well known outside the fashion world, her influence has been sung out by many in the industry.

Both an experimental photographer and a visionary stylist, Waller has affected the way we all see New Zealand fashion.

Waller discovered styling while helping out a model friend who needed some portfolio shots. Now the Auckland-based Waller works for a broad range of local labels as both stylist and photographer. She describes her personal style as “a daily mash-up of Kate Sylvester, NOM-d and a few international and vintage pieces with a passion for shoes, lingerie and hosiery”.

She says: “Film has always been my biggest inspiration and influences my styling, costume and photography work immensely, as I always like to think of models as taking on a character or a role to play and find actresses pretty inspiring also. I also adore books on art and photography and buy a colossal amount of international magazines.”

Says Murray Crane, a designer for Crane Brothers: “Karen has worked for many years with so many people and has influenced shows, editorial and collections. She is a true influencer, helping us all inspire our clients.”

Fashion writer Bronwyn Williams adds: “She's a stylist extraordinaire. Her styling, whether for Kate Sylvester, Annah Stretton, is edgy and always spot on.”

Dame Pieter Stewart Founder and manager of New Zealand Fashion week (NZFW).

Dame Pieter Stewart single-handedly launched NZFW in 2000.

With over 20 years of fashion promotion under her stylish belt, Stewart has shaped the way New Zealand labels promote themselves locally and abroad.

Stewart's support of local design extends to her involvement in the Miromoda competition, promoting Maori designers, and her hands-on approach in assisting designers.

Stewart told Life: “My style is classical, quite conservative and elegant. I very seldom wear international labels as I believe NZ labels are fantastic. I wear a lot of Helen Cherry, Trelise Cooper, Hailwood, Zambesi and Paula Ryan. Basically a smattering of many labels that take part in Fashion Week.”

Says Vicky Taylor, of Taylor Boutique: “For many years she has worked long hard hours behind the scenes of NZFW and even in the middle of a crisis will always look stylish. I also think the avenue she has worked so hard for has become the launching platform for many New Zealanders to take on the world.”

Tracey Strange, Life beauty writer, says: “Not only has Pieter fostered fashion and style in NZ, she is the walking embodiment of it.”

Foureyes Fashion bloggers:

Danny Simmons, Chin Tay, Alex Blanco and Mino Kim

Street style and those who document it have become a leading force in fashion.

The four bloggers from Foureyes, each with his own distinctive style, create a blog that records some extremely stylish locals, in turn inspiring their numerous readers.

They began the site as a fun project. Their blog records some great looks while focusing on the finer details of each outfit, covering a broad range of styles, with the common denominator being a sense of polish and attention to quirky details.

The blog has done so well that the four have been invited to New Zealand Fashion Week, have collaborated with local designers and will publish their first book towards the end of the year.

Says Andy Sales, Wellington manager of Good as Gold: "NZ's most comprehensive street style blog, they document all facets of fashion, not just their own personal tastes, while also noticing and focusing on small details. Any street style blog that is prominent or is getting views daily is going to have some form of an influence on people and their everyday dress."

Valentin Ozich Designer, I Love Ugly

Since its humble beginnings as a T-shirt brand in 2008, I Love Ugly has quickly evolved into one of the most influential menswear labels in the county.

What started as a canvas for graphic designer Ozich's bold prints has evolved to encompass a full wardrobe including accessories and recently, watches. Ozich and his design team stick to a very simple formula - they make clothes they would like to wear. As the label has expanded and the team grew up, so has the collection, which now includes some very smart suits.

With more than 100 global stockists, Ozich's international focus has turned I Love Ugly into a cult label. With a big following in Britain, North America and Australia, this level of success has given Ozich the ability to constantly refine the label's concept, with a greater focus on its graphic and art-inspired heritage. Says Ben Markby, a designer for the Oblivious: "Valentin is very inspirational. His mantra, the I Love Ugly brand and attention to detail create a very powerful identity."

The Dominion Post